US JEWELRY GIANT TO OPEN OUTLET IN TIANJIN - [shopping]
Author: dai While it is now popular for Chinese couples to buy diamond rings for marriage, US jewelry giant tiffany and co says it is staying ahead of trends by offering rings for other memorable occasions. Rings can be a celebration of an anniversary, the birth of baby or getting a new job. Wearing them all on one finger is not only pretty, but also helps you to remember those momentous events. After laying a solid foundation in China for seven years, Tiffany & co is now planning to accelerate expansion. In addition to its four stores in Beijing and Shanghai, the jeweler plans to open a new outlet in Tianjin next month, followed by one in Shenyang next January. The 130-square-meter Tianjin shop will be in the Friendship Store, a luxury retail center in the heart of the city's cultural and commercial district, where government offices are also located. The 204-square-meter Shenyang store will be at the Charter Shopping Center in the city's premier retail area. The new stores will offer various collections, including the jeweler's celebrated diamond engagement rings and other jewels, sterling silver and the signature designs of Paloma Picasso, Jean Schlumberger and Frank Gehry, along with watches, gifts and accessories. "Tianjin and Shenyang are well located, with robust economies, great natural beauty and a wealth of historical treasures," says Darren Chen, tiffany jewellery group vice-president. "These factors account for the cities' growth as major business centers and travel destinations for tourists worldwide, and they define the ideal environment for a store. We welcome residents and visitors to discover our collections and service that make shopping at Tiffany Necklaces a unique experience." "We plan to open three to six stores in China per year," Chen tells China Business Weekly at a Tiffany Earrings promotion in Beijing. He says that there are an increasing number of opportunities in the market, especially with many prime locations emerging. Refuting the notion that the firm lags behind its major international competitors, which have dozens of outlets in China, Chen says Tiffany Bracelets undertakes careful investigation before making decisions because every investment is significant. "We invest hugely in construction, inventory and people. We want to make sure we do it right. We don't have the option to change the location in two years." Unlike many competitors who expanded rapidly through local partnership, Tiffany wholly owns all its shops in China. Admitting it is a challenge, Chen points out the firm aims to control the product, the brand image and the message passed on to customers. The vice-president says going it alone is not a disadvantage when competing for the best location. "We have very strong brand and many landlords appreciate brands like us." Tiffany owns most of its outlets worldwide, except in markets where they are not allowed to conduct retail business. For example in Dubai, the firm works with local dealers to operate four stores. Chen says the company will continue to invest in shops, advertising and marketing, but notes that marketing is "not inexpensive" in China. "We are careful where and how we advertise," he adds. China at present accounts for a small amount of Tiffany's global business from its more than 160 outlets, but Chen is confident that the market will become significant in the near future, as it is already one of the fastest-growing for the jeweler. Tiffany's website serves five individual markets - the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and China, showing the company's commitment in China. According to its financial statement for fiscal year 2006, jewelry accounts for 83 percent of Tiffany's total net sales. The rest came through sales of timepieces, sterling silverware, china, crystal, stationery, fragrances and accessories. Its diamond jewelry is priced starting at 9,000 yuan and includes both rings with single diamonds and those featuring jewels used in a design. The company is also known for its wide collection of silver jewelry, with the prices starting at 1,000 yuan. Last month Tiffany's announced it will develop new, smaller-format stores in the US market that will offer a wide range of jewelry except for engagement rings. Named Tiffany & Co Collections, the first store is expected to open in its home market next year. The company now has 68 outlets in the US.
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